You’ve got your primary family vehicle, but you’re looking to get a second reliable, but relatively inexpensive, second car.

Or maybe, the kids have moved away for school, or out to work, and it’s just too expensive and inconvenient to drive around in an empty mini-van or larger sport utility vehicle.

Heck maybe you just want to be a super cool parent and buy that teenager of yours a car.

Whatever your reason, there may come a time when you decide it’s time for a less expensive, smaller, used car.

But how do you make sure you’re getting a good deal on a used family car?

  1. Start by doing your research. Find out what the vehicles are typically selling for by visiting sites like, or going in person to dealerships. Variables can include the age of the vehicle, mileage, service records, accidents, damages, upgrade packages and after market add-ons.
  2. You may feel like you can get a better deal buying privately, but if you aren’t mechanically inclined, even the smallest repairs can cost you quite a bit of money to fix, let alone larger issues with the car that you aren’t aware of when you buy. Take an auto-friendly pal along who can make sure you’re missing something obvious. Consider paying a mechanic to give it a once over. It’s not unreasonable to ask for service records from individuals as well.
  3. Buying a used car from a dealership can come with some benefits, including an extended or dealer warranty which will help prevent against unexpected bills. Service records can also be obtained, if the car has been exclusively serviced at the dealer.
  4. Call your auto insurance provider to get an estimate on what the car will cost to be insured. Many different variables can come into play, including replacement value of the vehicle.
  5. Check online to find out about any recalls which have been issued against the vehicle, and ask for proof that they have been taken care of.
  6. Review safety reports of older cars, and if your province has a Drive Clean program, as Ontario does, and ask for an up to date certificate prior to purchase.
  7. Car seat installation capability. Even though the kids might be too old to be in a car seat, there still might be the occasions when you have to secure a seat for a niece, nephew, friend or even a new grandchild. Check to see if the car is equipped with up to date anchors and seat belts to allow for this, should it be required.
  8. Check the tires (including the spare). Extreme wear and tear will make the car unsafe and present you with an unexpected expense. Ask if the car has snow tires that you might be able to get at a discount as well, if they are in good condition.